On September 21, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe (WCAS) and U.S. Anesthesia Partners, Inc. (USAP), in the Southern District of Texas, alleging the two companies “[e]xecuted a multi-year anticompetitive scheme to consolidate anesthesiology practices in Texas, drive up the price of anesthesia services provided to Texas patients, and boost their own profits.”Continue Reading FTC Sues Private Equity Firm and Anesthesiology Practice for Antitrust Violations

On August 16, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“the FTC”) marked its first enforcement action of the prohibitions on interlocking directorates under Section 8 of the Clayton Act in over 40 years. Section 8 prohibits an officer or director of one firm from simultaneously serving as an officer or director of a competing firm under most circumstances.[1] The FTC accepted for public comment a consent order conditioning the 5.2 billion dollar cash‑and-stock deal between two rival natural gas producers on preventing “entanglements between the two companies and the exchange of confidential, competitively sensitive information.” Under the consent order, Quantum Energy Partners (“Quantum”) representatives may not serve on EQT Corporation’s (“EQT”) Board of Directors and must divest its EQT shares. The consent order also unwinds a pre-existing joint venture between the two entities and imposes additional restraints to protect competition.Continue Reading Antitrust Enforcement Agencies Continue to Target Interlocking Directorate Arrangements

As generative AI becomes an increasingly integral part of the modern economy, antitrust and consumer protection agencies continue to raise concerns about the technology’s potential to promote unfair methods of competition. Federal Trade Commission (“the FTC”) Chair Lina Khan recently warned on national news that “AI could be used to turbocharge fraud and scams” and the FTC is watching to ensure large companies do not use AI to “squash competition.”[1] The FTC has recently written numerous blogs on the subject,[2] signaling its intent to “use [the FTC’s] full range of tools to identify and address unfair methods of competition” that generative AI may create.[3] Similarly, Jonathan Kanter, head of the Antitrust Division at Department of Justice (“the DOJ”), said that the current model of AI “is inherently dependent on scale” and may “present a greater risk of having deep moats and barriers to entry.”[4] Kanter recently added that “there are all sorts of different ways to deploy machine learning technologies, and how it’s deployed can be different in the healthcare space, the energy space, the consumer tech space, the enterprise tech space,” and antitrust enforcers shouldn’t be so intimidated by artificial intelligence and machine learning technology that they stop enforcing the laws.[5]Continue Reading AI Under the Antitrust Microscope: Competition Enforcers Focusing on Generative AI from All Angles

On July 19, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice jointly published long-anticipated proposed merger guidelines (the “Proposed Merger Guidelines”), which had been expected since President Biden issued an Executive Order Promoting Competition in the American Economy in the summer of 2021. According to the agencies, the Proposed Merger Guidelines “build upon, expand, and clarify” the prior guidance,[1] to keep up with “modern” market realities.[2] In contrast to the previous versions, the Proposed Merger Guidelines cover both horizontal and vertical mergers. They also cite case law for the first time.[3] Reflecting the Biden Administration’s views on federal antitrust merger enforcement, the Proposed Merger Guidelines substantially expand the types of competitive harm the agencies consider grounds for challenging a transaction under Section 7 of the Clayton Act (which prohibits mergers where the effect is “substantially to lessen competition” or “to tend to create a monopoly”).[4]Continue Reading A Big Deal: FTC and DOJ Issue Long-Awaited New Draft Merger Guidelines

The FTC announced today a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”)[1] proposing extensive revisions to both the rules that implement the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act (the “Act” or “HSR Act”), and the Premerger Notification and Report Form (the “Form”) that merging parties must submit under the Act. The NPRM would also implement the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2022. Continue Reading Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: FTC Proposes to Redesign and Dramatically Expand the Scope of the HSR Act Filing Process

On June 2nd, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“the FTC”) announced modifications to its in-house adjudicative proceedings. Under these new rules, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) presiding over an administrative hearing can only issue “recommended” decisions that are reviewed automatically by the FTC Commissioners (the “Commission”). The Commission, during their now-automatic review, may affirm the recommended decision in full or reject the decision, in whole or in part, and issue its own decision adopting different findings of fact or conclusions of law. Before the Commission acts on an ALJ’s recommended decision, it must provide the parties with an opportunity to submit a brief that states any exceptions to the decision.Continue Reading FTC Modifies Role of Administrative Judges Amid Heightened Agency Scrutiny

The Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) and Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (the “DOJ”) (together the “Agencies”) continue to carry out the Biden Administration’s stated mission to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement to “Promote Competition in the American Economy.”Continue Reading Restrictive Covenants in Real Estate: Next Antitrust Enforcement Target?

On April 14, 2023, in a decision involving appeals regarding two separate agency enforcement actions, the Supreme Court unanimously held that respondents in such actions may raise certain constitutional challenges outside of the administrative proceedings. Axon Enterprise, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission.Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds That Respondents in Agency Enforcement Actions May Raise Constitutional Challenges Outside of Administrative Proceedings

Following up on an earlier blog post outlining the United States Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) increased regulatory action against non-compete agreements in employment contracts,[1] a view across the pond reveals that European competition authorities follow these developments with interest – the prospect of groundbreaking new developments is more limited, though.Continue Reading Non-Compete and No-Poach Agreements: Towards Convergence of the US and EU Approaches?

On March 9, the FTC unanimously voted to block the proposed merger between the nation’s largest provider of home mortgage loan origination systems (LOS) and other key lender software tools, and its top competitor that offers the same services. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that one company owns the country’s dominant LOS platform, while the other company owns and operates the second-largest platform. In a press release announcing the administrative complaint, the FTC stated that the deal “would drive up costs, reduce innovation, and reduce lenders’ choices for tools necessary to generate and service mortgages.”Continue Reading FTC Seeks to Block Deal Between Top Mortgage Loan Technology Providers